Williams Nite at the Cactus
By Jim Caligiuri, 11:12AM, Wed. Jul. 29, 2009
The premise for last night's third annual tribute at the Cactus was toasting Hank Williams and Lucinda Williams. Although not related, these two artists have influenced a horde of Austin musicians with their words and deeds, and as the show wore on, the coupling made more and more sense. Everyone who got on stage was allowed one song by Hank, one by Lucinda, and one of their own.
It had the aura of Kerrville all over it: There were some familiar performers and songs, but it also offered the audience brief glimpses at some impressive under-the-radar acts. There were a couple of surprises sprinkled throughout the two-hour performance. Tom Pittman of the Austin Lounge Lizards, who served as master of ceremonies, ended the first set by rendering Hank’s “Cold, Cold Heart.” But not before informing the crowd that in his 45 years as a musician he had never performed solo. Another Cactus first.
Southpaw Jones admirably yodeled through “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” then pulled out Lucinda’s “Out of Touch,” which he claimed he learned from an early demo recording that was starkly different from the one that made it onto Essence. BettySoo was the special, unannounced guest, serving up a chilling rendition of “Lonesome Whistle,” which can be found on her fab new disc, Heat Sin Water Skin, produced by Lucinda’s old friend Gurf Morlix.
Show producer Jenny Reynolds was spunky as always, choosing to perform Lucinda’s rarely heard “I Envy the Wind,” and bluesman Seth Walker offered a self-composed spiritual that fit nicely between the Williams’ visions, both bluesy and Gothic. Thankfully, almost no one brought out their inner Audrey and the show flew by without any technical hitches, insuring there will be another Williams Nite down the road.